NAIROBI, Kenya (CNN) -- Kenyans were voting Thursday in tight presidential and legislative elections which could see an incumbent leader voted out of office for the first time since the country's independence.
President Mwai Kibaki was facing a challenge from opposition leader Raila Odinga, a flamboyant politician who for weeks has accused his rival of corruption.
Voters were also choosing 210 lawmakers and more than 2,000 provincial authority members.
Despite fears of violence, voting appeared calm. Thousands lined up at polling stations across the capital, with some turning up hours before the voting began at 6 a.m. (10 p.m. ET Wednesday).
One man told CNN he was excited to vote because he feels it's the most important election in Kenya's history since independence in 1964. Another man, who is 82, said he was voting to encourage Kenyan youth to do the same.
Harun Owade, a 30-year-old mechanic, had been waiting in line to vote since 3:30 a.m. in Kibera, home to at least 700,000 people in a maze of potholed tracks and ramshackle dwellings.
"This time around Kenyans are not the same," he told the Associated Press. "We cannot be tricked. We will put the politicians to the test."
"I have not even milked my cow because today we are putting our country first," Mary Muthoni Gikiri told AP while waiting to vote at a polling station in Kibaki's hometown of Othaya, some 125 miles from the capital, Nairobi.
One voter who failed to cast his ballot was Odinga himself, who was prevented from voting in his constituency because his name wasn't on the register. His representatives told CNN that Odinga would try to vote later in the day.
Kibaki came to power five years ago on an anti-graft mandate but was soon faced with allegations of corruption. While many Kenyans say they are tired of the accusations and are hungry for change, many others credit Kibaki with keeping the country's economy strong. Watch profiles on the candidates
Many others, however, don't feel they have benefited from the economic boom. Odinga has openly appealed to them to vote out the incumbent so they can share the wealth.
The election could be a test for Kenya's young multi-party democracy. Kenya is East Africa's biggest economy and a stable country, so a peaceful vote and a smooth transition of power were seen as crucial for the otherwise-volatile region.
"By and large what I have observed is an orderly process with enthusiastic voters," Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, chief European Union election monitor in Kenya, told AP. "I hope it will stay this way."
Election-related violence has been fatal. Wednesday, three policemen in western Kenya were killed after being accused of trying to rig the vote for Kibaki.
Votes are counted at polling stations once they close, and results are sent to the Election Commission in Nairobi, which tallies nationwide results.
Those results were expected to be announced Friday evening or Saturday morning. E-mail to a friend
CNN's David McKenzie contributed to this report
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